Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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FEED RATIONS: CHOOSING WHAT IS BEST FOR YOUR GOATS

Full feed, feed supplements, creep feeding, free choice feeding, feed limiters, textured feed, pelleted feed . . . what do all these terms mean? Unfortunately, they can mean different things in various parts of the USA. Goat producers must understand this terminology in order to avoid management mistakes that can cause illness or even death to their goats.

A nutritionally-balanced ration that contains sufficient protein, energy, minerals, and vitamins that nothing else but long fiber must be fed is called a "full feed." "Long fiber" is hay or forage/browse. A "full feed" comes in sacks or bulk bags and is manufactured at a feed mill based upon a formula developed by a trained livestock nutritionist for a specific geographic area or purpose such as production goats or show wethers. Producers need to know that "long fiber" is not available insufficient amounts in any "full feed" and should always be available "free choice" to goats. Read my article entitled "The Importance of Long Fiber" on the Articles page of my website www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. "Pelleted" feed is made in a pelleting feed mill and is uniformly sized into about 3/16 inch pellets in which the nutritional products are uniformly dispersed. "Textured" feed (aka "horse & mule feed") is molasses based and you can see and identify the various ingredients such as shelled corn. Although "textured" feed tends to have a higher fiber level than "pelleted" feed, the "pelleted" feed is healthier for goats because the potential for mold in "textured" feed makes Listeriosis and ruminal problems more likely. Goats also tend to pick out what they like in "textured" feed and leave the rest, resulting in an unbalanced diet. "Long fiber" (hay or forage/browse) should be offered with both "pelleted" and "textured" feed. Cottonseed hulls that have not been ground are high in "long fiber" but fed alone are not nutritionally balanced and therefore are not a "full feed."

"Supplements" can be either feed, mineral, or vitamins or some combination thereof. They come in blocks or tubs and in two primary forms: Protein only and protein/mineral combinations. They are fed to goats that are primarily on forage, browse, or pasture to "supplement" nutritional deficiences in their diet. These items should be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to the goats ("free choice"). "Free choice" is defined as offering various types of nutrition twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, never removing them from the goats' access. " Free choice" feeding allows goats to choose when and how much they wish to eat. Items that should always be offered "free choice" are water, grass hay, loose minerals made for goats, and protein blocks or tubs. Do not feed sacked or bulk feed rations "free choice" to goats. I will explain why later in this article.

"Limiters" are ingredients used in feed products to reduce consumption for the purpose of forcing the goat to eat more forage, browse, pasture, or hay and therefore eat less of the more expensive "full feed" or feed "supplements" provided by the producer. The use of "limiters" in livestock feed has the same effect as over-salting your own food -- it isn't palatable and therefore you don't eat as much. "Limiters" should not be used with goats; their rapid metabolism requires a higher quality of nutrition than needed by cattle or sheep. Salt and other minerals are used as "limiters" in many types of feed, so the producer needs to know the amounts of all ingredients in products fed to goats. I had a nutritional disaster several winters ago when feeding combination protein/mineral blocks as supplements to hay. Read my article entitled Hay and Forage Testing on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Learn to use blocks and tubs labeled for "sheep & goats" because they have minimal amounts of minerals and salt, thereby allowing goats to consume more protein and energy faster. Offer loose minerals "free choice" alongside these all-natural, urea-free (aka non-protein nitrogen) blocks or tubs. Using these two different nutritional supplements together is better than using a combination protein & mineral product. You may have trouble finding these "sheep & goat" blocks or tubs outside of Texas. Go to the HiPro Feeds website (www.hiprofeeds.com) to the "sheep & goat" block for general nutritional content to assist you in finding equivalent products in your area.

IMPORTANT: Unless you have (a) formal training in goat nutrition, or (b) have direct access to a goat nutritionist who will help you formulate a feed for your herd, do not mix your own feed. You can easily get too much of one item that may bind up the utilization of something else by the goat. The chemical form of certain items (oxides, sulfates, sulfides) makes a big difference in the goat's ability to utilize them. As a general rule, the cheaper products are less digestible. Oxides are the cheapest and least digestible; sulfates are the most expensive and also the most easily utilized by the goat. Don't automatically decide to feed what your neighbor feeds; his circumstances are probably different from your herd's needs and he may not know what he is doing anyhow. Every feed company has at least one ruminant nutritionist on its staff. Contact the company that makes feed in your area and work with that person to develop a feed formulation for your goats. Feed companies want to sell their products; there may be no charge for this service. If you don't have goat feed available in your area, contact one of the big feed manufacturers, educate them on the number of goats raised in your area, and invite them to be the first company to produce goat feed in your market. Producers should not mix "full feeds" with feed "supplements." For example, loose minerals should not be mixed into "full feed" rations. "Full feed" already has minerals and vitamins formulated at a level designed for proper delivery to the goat. Mineral "supplements" have much higher concentrations of minerals in them and are designed for the goats to consume small amounts per day on a "free choice" basis. If the producer mixes loose minerals with "full feed," the goat may receive a toxic level of minerals.

"Creep feeding" is defined in various ways around the USA. In Texas where I live, "creep feeding" means different things to different people. The problem arises when one person thinks he understands what the other is saying, but really doesn't. To me, " creep feeding" involves free-choicing sacked feeds. Do not ever "free choice" sacked grain to goats of any age. The potential for entertoxemia (overeating disease), ruminal acidosis, urinary calculi, bloat, laminitis-founder, and a host of other very serious rumen-based and therefore life-threatening illnesses is put into play. See my article entitled Feeding the Rumen - Not the Goat on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Some people speak of "creep feeding" as feeding sacked feeds to kids who are still nursing their dams and may or may not involve offering it "free choice." This is done to (a) provide additional nutrients above that which the dam's milk offers, (b) reduce lactation requirements of the doe, and (c) ease the kid onto solid food so the transition at weaning from dam's milk to all solid food won't result in rumen problems. Goats as a species tend to overeat, and kids raised in managed populations that receive regular graining tend to become feed-bucket animals at best and develop rumen-related illnesses (or die) at worst. If regular grain feeding is a part of your management regimen, offer a measured amount of sacked feed to all goats (including young kids) on a regular schedule, then gather up what is left (if any) after ten minutes and feed less the next day. The next time you are talking with fellow goat producers about feeding, make sure you understand what they mean by the terms they are using so that no one receives incorrect information that might harm the health of your goats. Ask them what they mean when they say "creep feeding," feed "supplements," etc. so that you are all talking about the same things. The devil is always in the definitions.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, 11/14/11

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Important! Please Read This Notice!

All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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